Desiree Linden sets sights on ending US dry spell

File/Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Desiree Linden hopes to end a 32-year Boston Marathon drought for American women.

By John Powers Globe Correspondent 

Three years ago Meb Keflezighi ended a 31-year domestic drought when he became the first US male to win here since 1983. Monday morning Desiree Linden takes her fifth shot at ending a female gap that now stands at 32 years since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach won in 1985.

“Meb’s year was so special following the bombing I don’t think anything anyone does on this course ever will be comparable,” says the 33-year-old Linden, who was runner-up to Kenya’s Caroline Kilel by two seconds in 2011. “But I do think Boston wants an American winner, and we want to break this drought on the women’s side.


“Having gotten close in 2011 I know that everybody wants it and I got a taste of what it might feel like so I’m certainly motivated.”

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Linden, who finished seventh at last summer’s Rio Olympics, set her personal best (2:22:38) here in 2011 and feels that she’s still in her prime. “She’s right there,” says her coach Keith Hanson. “Her mind-set now is, hey, I’ve got nothing to lose. Winning is the only logical goal. She’s been pretty damned close before.”

Sumgong’s title in jeopardy

For the second time in four years, the winner of this year’s World Marathon Majors women’s title may be stripped of both the honor and the $500,000 paycheck that comes with it. Kenya’s Jemima Sumgong, who won the Olympic gold medal and the London crown, recently tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO), the same banned blood-booster that got countrywoman Rita Jeptoo’s Boston and Chicago victories revoked as well as her WMM laurels.

Were Sumgong to lose any appeal, Ethiopia’s Atsede Baysa would top the table should she defend her Boston title on Monday. “I have not thought about the money,” says Baysa. “My preparation and training is to win the Boston Marathon on Monday.”

Should Baysa prevail, she’d be the first woman from her country to do it since Geta Wami in the inaugural cycle a decade ago. Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who won both in London and Rio last year, has clinched his second straight men’s crown.


The total payout for next year’s cycle, which begins with Sunday’s London race, will be significantly reduced with the men’s and women’s open champions receiving half ($250,000) of the previous amount while the second and third-place finishers will get $50,000 and $25,000. Abbott, the sponsoring US-based global health-care company, instead will donate $280,000 to charities chosen by the seven individual race winners.

A fitting end for Keflezighi

Keflezighi, whose final two competitive marathons will be here and in New York in November, likes the numerology of ending his career at 26 races.

“Twenty-six in honor of the distance, and I’ll be 42 by the time New York comes, which is the distance in kilometers, so it’s a perfect story,” says Keflezighi, who is the only American runner to win both cities’ races as well an an Olympic medal.

Refocusing her attention

Much as Joan Benoit Samuelson would love to be running here with her daughter and son-in-law on Monday, there’s a box back home that she wants to check. “I’ve never run a marathon in Maine,” says the Olympic and two-time Boston champion, who’ll compete in the Sugarloaf Marathon on May 21 shortly after she turns 60. “I thought that before I can’t, I’d better.”

Samuelson will run alongside 60-year-old friend Michael Westphal, who is battling Parkinson’s disease but still can post a 3:30. “We’ll hopefully raise some funds for Parkinson’s and the Michael J. Fox Foundation,” says Samuelson, who also plans to run in Chicago this fall. “It’s all about the story. If I can come up with a story and go out and run and tell that story, I’ll do it. Hopefully I’ll come up with a story for Boston next year.”

The easy way

Dave McKenzie and Roberta Gibb, the top male and female finishers in 1967, will be grand marshals of this year’s race. This time they’ll get to cover the course in an automobile. “The easy way to do it,” observes Gibb, who was the first woman to complete the course a year earlier when she ran unofficially. McKenzie, the only New Zealand victor here, set a course record (2:15:45) in icy drizzle.

John Powers can be reached at